This September-in-review blog post is brought to us all by Sue Hillman of It’s Your London touring company.  Providing custom tours tailored to your personal interests, It’s Your London will help you make the most of your time in this phenonemonal city. (For more information, see our previous blog post and visit www.itsyourlondon.co.uk)

September highlights were: Open House, a chance to nose around; late night at the Natural History Museum – more nosing; and, a visit to the Maps exhibition at the British Library – not stuck my nose in there for quite time…..

Open House is an annual event in London (brother, or sister, event of Open Gardens in June each year) when you can get into buildings that are not normally open to the public for a two day burst of activity. I could only do one day and the choice was overwhelming so we picked out a few contrasting buildings and missed out on some great ones, like a chance to go to the top of the BT Tower, closed since the 1980 but you had to be quick off the mark to book that one!  We saw inside the New West End Synagogue in Notting Hill and they let us see all around this amazing place which I think is not always possible for women as they told us they worship in the upstairs section. Notting Hill has an incredible range of places of worship from this synagogue, through Greek Orthodox, to a Serbian church, an Armenian centre, to CofE and Catholic, Islamic, a wonderful building for Sikh worship, Methodist churches and Baptist Revival temples too. These reflect the extraordinary diversity in the area which makes it such fun to live here!

Back to Open House….  We popped our heads into the lobby at the former Daily Express building on Fleet Street which is a temple to art deco. Fleet Street used to be the home of all the London based newspapers and entered the language as a collective name for national papers. However, new technology coupled with the force of change from the Murdoch empire saw the end of this era but the wonderful buildings remain.  The photos showthe  pristine interior and art deco exterior that housed the Daily Express. From here we went for a complete contrast with the Middle Hall at Temple. Temple is one of the legal areas of London where the lawyers have their chambers as it’s close to the Royal Courts of Justice. Middle Temple Hall is used for dinners and events now and dates from the 1560. It is pretty much as it was then with its incredible double hammer beam ceiling and a huge wooden table said to have been donated by one of its frequent visitors, Queen Elizabeth 1.  One end was badly damaged by a bomb in the Second World War but it has been restored and the rest survived despite being largely wooden!  Its other claim to fame is to have been the venue for the first performance of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. It was a hard place to take photos so apologies for not giving you the best of views.

The late night opening at the Natural History Museum was great fun. ‘Science Uncoverd’ was a chance for the public to meet their scientists, as part of a pan European event happening the same time in 200 other cities. It was absolutely mobbed and we had difficulty getting anywhere near a scientist but had a lovely time wandering around the galleries with a glass of wine. Really hope they do another one soon as there is so much to enjoy – not just the brilliant dinosaurs including the one that takes up most of the ground floor (see photo)!

The 3rd highlight to tell you about was the Maps exhibition at the British Library. The British Library itself is a great modern building and they claim to have 14 million books tho’ I wonder if they are all in this building – the walls of books make you think they just might! I’ve put in 3 photos to show you entrance to this 1997 building and courtyard with its statue of Isaac Newton by Eduardo Paolozzi, one of a wall of books and one of the wonderful interior. The Maps exhibition was brilliant and ranged from mappa mundi from the 11th century to a 2008 spoof map of London. The old ones are extraordinary for their imagery and also some from the beginning of the ages of discovery show incredible accuracy for the time considering what they had to work with and yet some sections of these maps would be just guesswork which was fun to see.  This was a temporary exhibition but the library’s permanent collections are well worth a visit if you are interested in old and not so old books and documents.  They have rooms with original copies of the Magna Carta, medieval illustrated bibles and sacred Jewish texts, an Audubon book of birds and even the handwritten lyrics of several Beatles songs, mostly in John Lennon’s hand.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these 3 different glimpses of life here, there is of course so much more going on but I’d need a book not a blog post!

Sue Hillman
www.itsyourlondon.co.uk